A Brief History of the Fourth of July

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July 4th weekend is coming in less than a month! Check out our Fourth of July series, beginning with the origin of the holiday.

July 4th is perhaps the time when people search and rent a boat in New York the most: the weather is hot; every spot for firework-viewing on land is crowded. No firework-viewing experience can possibly be better than spending time away from the crowds and enjoying the cool breeze on the water. As the Sailo team commenced our Fourth of July series, we did a bit of research on what people often search about the day. Aside from questions about how to spend the holiday, question about the origin of the day itself is very popular. Therefore, we decide to dedicate the first post in the series to answer this question.

The History of the Fourth of July: the Declaration of Independence

America’s Independence Day essentially marks the date the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence–July 4th, 1776. However, as one of the founding fathers, John Adams, noted, it is the momentum that culminated in the Declaration rather than the document itself that is worthy of celebration. The historical background of this event is a mix of an Enlightenment battle over natural rights and citizenship and an economic dispute over taxation between the colonies and Britain. At the time, Britain was deeply in debt and expecting the colonies to pay more for the cost of maintaining its Empire by way of taxes and duties on goods.

Cartoon Declaration of Independence Taxation

Aside from outlining the colonies’ discontent about taxation, the Declaration also reflects the Americans’ vision of democratic legitimacy and representation that was deemed lacking in the colonial regimes set up by the Empire. The growing tension between the colonies and Britain about political representation, trade, taxes, and authority led to musket fire in 1775 in Lexington and Concord. In 1776, the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams assisted Thomas Jefferson in crafting the Declaration of Independence document, consolidated from the many local declarations circulated around the colonies in the past months. On July 5th, copies of the Declaration were distributed; the following day, The Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to print the document.


Fun fact: the Macy’s fireworks display actually premiered on the Hudson in 1958 before evolving to an East River tradition in 1976.
We may be familiar with the famous annual Macy’s Firework on the East River. Interestingly, fireworks did not become the norm in July 4th celebrations until after 1816, as Americans ceased to be dependent on costly imported fireworks and started producing their own.

Macy's Fireworks
Macy’s Fireworks Display. Photo credit: Julienne Schaer, nyc.go

“[The Independence Day] ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations…”

-Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams on July 3rd 1776

The customary Macy’s fireworks display is happening in less than a month on the East River. There are many locations from which you can view the spectacular show, and perhaps none more exciting than from a boat. Plus, no more battling the crowds for a perfect spot! Plan your Fourth of July celebration early, rent a boat charter in New York East River, and enjoy the view. The Sailo team is here to help you with a hassle-free boat rental experience. You can also check out our recommendation of New York attractions by boat as you plan to spend your Independence Day weekend in the city. Stay tuned for our next post on things to do in New York during the Fourth of July weekend!

Note: For the viewers’ safety, the U.S. Coast Guard announces waterway restrictions for Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Display every year. You can refer to last year’s announcement here; we will update the information as soon as it is available.